“My first game…against Chelsea. I was only on for around 20 minutes, and it was a tough place to go and make your debut.”
When you mention Val Adedokun’s debut for Brentford B it brings a smile to his face. Having signed for the Club just a day before, the youngster was straight into the squad ahead of a match against a strong Chelsea XI which boasted a wealth of experience.
The youngster was a second half substitute in a fast-paced match which saw the young Bees narrowly beaten despite a display with many positives.
“I thought I did quite well, it was a good first game to play in to show you what to expect,” explained Val as we sat down at Jersey Road to discuss his football journey so far. At the age of 17 he made his debut for Dundalk before catching the eye of Brentford and heading to West London at 18.
So, how did Val’s journey as a youngster in Ireland play out as he made his first steps in football?
“When I was younger my dad used to take me to the park to play football. There was something called mini-leagues where I lived and where local kids could go along and play in a tournament,” explained Val. “One of the local managers asked me if I’d like to join his team called River Valley. Ever since, it’s been 24/7 football, whether that’s watching it or playing it.
“I was good in school, I wouldn’t say I was the best of the best, but I did my work to the best I could. Football was always my escape, if I didn’t want to be there then I always knew that I had training to look forward to later on.”
At River Valley Val impressed before moving on to Malahide, which then preceded a youth match where he showed what he could do in a match against Dundalk, who he would then end up joining.
Val continued: “I played for the Under-17s, Under-19s and then with the first team with Dundalk. It’s very community driven and the local people are very involved in the club. They were taken over by new owners recently and it’s good because that’s involving lots of local people. When you walk around the area all you can see is people wearing Dundalk gear, people had watched my games and always came up to talk to me about them.
“I felt like I was given my chance to prove who I was there. Every time I did well, I was able to step up along with some of the other players. They give you a chance if you can prove that you’re capable; you’ll always get that chance there. They don’t necessarily rely on young players because they are able to bring players in from abroad, but if they have homegrown talent then they won’t hesitate to bring them in and put them into the first team.”
Having impressed within the youth setup at Dundalk, when his school schedule allowed, Val was able to train up with the first team in Ireland and he went on to make his debut against Shamrock Rovers.
Discussing his early days in and around a senior environment, Val looks back with pride. He said: “It was hard because I was still in secondary school and I’d only really train with the first team during the school holidays. I was told I was in the squad for a game against Shamrock and I didn’t expect to actually make my debut. The gaffer brought me on during the last few minutes, and even though it wasn’t long, it’s a memory that will never leave me.
“I then played in pre-season at left back and managed to go and start four games and play as a substitute a fair few times. I thought I did well for a player who didn’t really understand left back having mainly played as a winger. You play where the manager wants you to play, wherever you can get minutes. I learned as I was going, and I think I did well and that ultimately culminated in my move to Brentford.”
When The Bees made the initial move to bring Val to the Club, the youngster was focused on his football with Dundalk whilst things were progressing. As things developed, the opportunity to join a Premier League Club was something he couldn’t turn down.
“I knew about the B Team setup and how it was different. It was a call that I never really expected, and the news came from my dad and my agent when things started to move,” explained Val. “It was quite scary at the time because I thought to myself: ‘am I ready?’ because I hadn’t played too much for the first team at Dundalk yet. My dad told me that I may not get an opportunity like this again, to come to a Premier League club like Brentford, I think it’s gone really well.
“It’s hard not seeing your family but it hasn’t been as hard as you may think. When I played for Dundalk I lived there, and though it was only 15 minutes from home, I wanted to be involved with everyone so I moved into a house with some of the other players. It prepared me for life outside of the family home which has helped me now I’m in London. My family have been over which has been nice to see them. Hopefully I can get back around Christmas time.”
So, having joined Neil MacFarlane’s young Bees, how does it compare to football back home?
Val continued: “I’ve learned to be braver on the ball because, the way we play, everyone has to be comfortable with the ball at your feet. You can’t shy away from it, you’ve got to take the ball and be ready. I’m a lot fitter, the first two or three weeks were tough in terms of the fitness. I still have a long way to go because you can always improve but I feel like I’ve got a lot better.
“I’ve improved technically, before I may have relied a bit on my speed, and I know I still have that, but you can’t just have speed because people will catch up with you. You have to improve every day and I definitely feel like I’m doing that.”
The youngster grabbed his first goal for Brentford B recently as they beat Broadfields United 11-0 in the Middlesex Senior Cup Second Round. Having netted his first, Val wants to keep adding to his tally in the upcoming games.
He explained: “Sam Saunders was getting on to me about my first goal! I’m glad I got it out the way but I just want more now. We could have been content on two or three goals but we just had the approach as though it was still 0-0. Every time we won the ball back we just wanted to keep pushing and get another goal. Between us at the back we were intent on making sure we didn’t concede too.”
Val was recently part of the Republic of Ireland Under-19 set up as they headed out to Bulgaria for European qualifiers in November. Having played for the Under-15s a few years ago he was able to break into the Under-19 squad shortly after signing for Brentford. The side performed well to set them up for further fixtures in March next year as they aim to qualify for the tournament next summer.
On his international appearances, the youngster is hungry for more minutes. He said: “I’ve always wanted to get back into the international setup, but you need to earn it. When I got called up for a camp in Marbella, I was excited. I didn’t want to rest there, I wanted to get into the EURO qualifying squad. We managed to qualify for the Elite Qualifying Round in March so that’s something to look forward to and I’ll work hard to get into the squad again. We came second in our group on goal difference, so we’ve perhaps got a slightly harder group to come compared to if we’d have finished first. We’ll do our best and we’ll back ourselves.”